How to Support a Loved One Living With Emphysema


Chronic bronchitis

An estimated 24 million Americans live with the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) every day. COPD is the umbrella name for various pulmonary disorders including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These diseases cause blockage or burst air sacs in the lungs that inhibits a person’s ability to breath. In addition to causing wheezing and inability to perform simple tasks, the lack of oxygen to other vital organs can cause additional health issues.

Since there is no cure for emphysema and chronic bronchitis and the conditions gradually get worse over time, you might feel helpless watching a loved one endure such terrible symptoms. Even though you might not feel like there is much you can do, having the support of a loved one significantly improves the quality of life for a person diagnosed with COPD. Here are a few ways to stay strong and be supportive when someone you love has COPD:

  • Research the disease. Educate yourself on the symptoms of emphysema and chronic bronchitis, treatment options, and the signs and actions to take in the case of a serious attack. Understanding the disease helps reduce the fear of the unknown and prepares you for what to expect as their condition changes.
  • Help your loved one make connections with other COPD patients. Knowing that they are not alone in their condition provides encouragement and energy. Many occupational therapy services provide group sessions that both teaches COPD patients techniques for strengthening their lungs and helps them meet other people with the same challenges. It might be intimidating to get involved in such a group but your encouragement will help. Offering to attend therapy with them might give them the boost they need to get involved.
  • Take care of yourself. You will not be able to provide the support your loved one needs if you get burnt out yourself. Find ways to unwind and relax on a regular basis so that you have the energy to be a support system for your loved one. It is essential to have someone to talk to throughout the journey, ideally someone who can relate to your situation. Getting involved in support groups will help you make relationships with people who can council you in hard times.
  • Remain calm, especially in emergency situations. Your loved one will feed on the reaction that you have in difficult situations. If they see your anxiety, it will add to their own stress levels.
  • Make quality time with them a priority. The lifestyle of a person with COPD can be pretty restricted. Set aside time to play a board game or watch a classic movie with them. Making sure you spend quality time with them on a regular basis will significantly improve their quality of life and comfort.
  • Give them stability. Big changes, such as relocation, is hard on a person with COPD. As their condition worsens, it might become necessary for them to receive 24-hour skilled nursing care. Before putting your loved one into a nursing home, thoroughly research the facility and make sure it will be a positive environment for them to be in, so that changing environments won’t be necessary.

Has someone you love been diagnosed with emphysema or chronic bronchitis? What provides the greatest source of support for your loved one? What gives you the most comfort and strength?

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